Playmakers employs an innovative storytelling approach featuring much-loved Disney characters to help more girls see the fun in regular physical exercise and football.
Girls across Armenia are being encouraged to kickstart a lifelong love of football through a ground-breaking Playmakers football programme from UEFA and Disney.
Using Disney’s world-renowned storytelling and inspired by academic research showing the positive role of storytelling in helping children take up sport, Playmakers aims to increase the proportion of girls meeting the World Health Organization’s minimum standards for physical activity – currently, just 16% (see WHO report).
Targeting 5-8 year-old girls not currently playing football, Armenia is joining 22 other UEFA national associations in committing to roll out Playmakers through schools, clubs and local communities. More associations are expected to introduce the programme in the coming years.
Movement, teamwork, imagination
Unlike traditional football programmes, each of Playmaker’s ten initial training sessions follow the narrative of billion-dollar global box office smash hits like Disney’s Frozen II and Disney and Pixar’s Incredibles 2. Equipped with footballs, bibs and cones, trained coaches encourage participants to play the roles of popular characters, such as Elastigirl and Elsa and Anna, bringing the films’ action scenes to life through movement, teamwork, and their imagination.
Armen Melikbekyan, President of the Football Federation of Armenia, added:
“Armenia is one of the first countries to take part in this pan-European programme. Undoubtedly, il will have a huge contributioin to the development of women’s football in Armenia. “The growth of the girls’ and women’s game in Armenia is a key priority for the FFA. Besides, the opportunity to establish a partnership with a global brand like Disney is a tremendous step towards popularization of football. Our participation in the “Playmakers” program will ensure that number of participants countinues to grow and will give a lot of young girls a good chance to be involved in football from a young age in a fun environment. This is a very good initiative set up by UEFA and Disney, which will encourage young girls to play football in an innovative way”.
As Playmakers rolls out across Europe, new Disney storytelling will be added to the programme.
Creating an environment for girls to flourish
In its early sessions, Playmakers focuses on building girls’ confidence in their movement, encouraging creative thinking and communicating easily with their friends. Later sessions introduce girls to basic football skills, but the programme continues to put the emphasis on making sport fun.
Nancy Avesyan, Armenian Womens’ National team player said: “This latest initiative from Disney and UEFA is fantastic. It offers a new and creative way for children to start playing football. I am sure playing against girl’s teams at an early age will be a huge step for developing as a player. I guess everyone watched Disney in their childhood, and now, when the heroes from beloved cartoons guide them through the football world, I am sure that it will make more girls fall in love with football. I cannot wait to see the positive effect that this programme will have across Armenia.”
UEFA-funded research into play-based learning
The play-based learning at the heart of Playmakers’ unique approach follows a literary review by Leeds’ Beckett University in England, which was commissioned by UEFA. The review assessed academic research into what motivates young girls to participate in sports, identifying best practice coaching methods to create a safe learning environment. Its findings put particular emphasis on the benefits of play-based education.
The programme is also the result of a knowledge-transfer partnership with the English Football Association (FA), who are currently running the “Shooting Stars” programme in partnership with Disney.
Time for Action
Playmakers represents a first step toward achieving one of the main goals of “Time for Action” the UEFA Women’s Football Strategy – to double girls’ and women’s participation in football by 2024.
“If you’re going to teach football through the power of storytelling and play, you have to do it with the best stories and characters in the world, and Disney is the perfect partner for this,” said Nadine Kessler, UEFA Chief of Women’s Football.
“It is UEFA’s duty as European football’s governing body to empower girls to play the game,” added UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin. “Through this partnership with Disney, we will open up football to an audience not yet engaged with our sport.”
Disney’s Healthy Living Commitment
Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Disney has a long-standing Healthy Living Commitment, using its storytelling to get families more active and working to educate and inspire children about healthy eating. This has led to a variety of partnerships on inspirational campaigns, such as Public Health England’s “10 Minute Shake Up” which inspired two million kids to “get active” and register more than 100 million extra minutes of physical activity.
In Poland, Disney launched its successful #GetMovingWithDisneyJunior initiative, a campaign spearheaded by local sporting champions, which reached more than 30,000 youngsters. The campaign involved the creation of more than 30 films, which featured children exercising alongside Disney Junior characters.
Nicole Morse, Disney EMEA’s Vice President of Integrated Marketing, said: “This brilliant Playmakers initiative is another great example of Disney’s long-term commitment to help future generations lead healthier lifestyles. By using our much-loved characters and stories as a force for good, we can really make a difference and inspire families and children to be more active. So we’re very proud that by partnering with UEFA on the first pan-European girls football programme, we will encourage more and more girls across the region to get active, build their confidence and participate in playing football, all in an environment that has been specifically designed for them.”
Parents interested in Playmakers can visit http://www.uefa.com/playmakers.